invincible summers

in the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer. (albert camus)

Joe Pantoliano on mental illness stigma April 27, 2009

thanks to Van for posting on this-I’ve been out of the loop and missed it although I am familiar with what Joe has been doing lately.

Joe Pantoliano (The Sopranos, Memento, The Matrix, The Goonies) started an organization called No Kidding, Me Too! He has a documentary coming out with the same title. I want to start off my saying, I commend him for this. Stigma is a real problem in America and throughout the world. We must bring an end to it!

This is Joe’s message at his website:
We are ready for the fight and we ask you to please join us in the revolution and help us educate souls all over the world to “Remove the Stigma!”

No Kidding, Me Too! is an organization whose purpose is to remove the stigma attached to brain dis-ease through education and the breaking down of societal barriers. Our goal is to empower those with brain dis-ease to admit their illness, seek treatment, and become even greater members of society.

The Goal
Make Brain Dis-ease cool and sexy. We want a normal conversation in America to be:

“I have bipolar disorder/schizophrenia/insert dis-ease”

“No Kidding, Me Too!”

Who Has The Stigma:
Those suffering from brain dis-eases including anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, pyromania, kleptomania, compulsive gambling, addictions, paranoia, multiple personality disorder, gender identity disorder, Down’s syndrome, psychosomatic disorder, tic disorders, and others.

How Will NKMT Accomplish This?
h Create strategic partnerships with members of industry, academia, organizations and government to ensure a broad-based spectrum of support and input.
h Organize the creative talents of our industry professionals to generate messages for various media and use our celebrity status to ensure these messages are heard. The messages will be of empowerment and acceptance and can include topics as basic as giving job opportunities to those with a brain dis-ease.
h Coordinate, participate in and generate interest for national and regional educational events consistent with our goal.

He has an impressive list of Advisory Board members, some of whom I greatly admire in the industry Joey and I share: Robert Downey, Jr, Ed Begley, Jr, Jeff Bridges, Edie Falco, Marcia Gay Harden, Ang Lee, Robin Williams and many more.

At his website there are photos of Joey from the screening of the teaser at the Democratic National Convention with people like Tony Goldwyn, Dana Delaney, Bobby Kennedy, Melissa Etheridge and Tom Fontana.

Here’s the teaser to his documentary:

Under the resources section at his website-the very first resource listed is NAMI. ahem. I wonder if Joe has researched Big Pharma’s influence at NAMI? Is he aware that Sen. Grassley is investigating NAMI’s funding? I am a registered Democrat and I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with this party, a party who is ignoring the corruption of Big Pharma and anyone linked to Big Pharma mainly because of their involvement with them. They are looking out for themselves and those that financially support them instead of the PEOPLE. Senator Grassley is all alone and that is sad.

At Joe’s website he links to several articles, letters, humorous videos and some of this favorite quotes, here’s a sampling:

To Fight Stigmas, Start With Treatment

Call for New Home to Address Health Disparities for Mentally Ill

FDA Approves Depressant Drug For The Annoyingly Cheerful

some of Joey’s favorite quotes

The teaser for his documentary opens with the statement:
1 in 4 Americans suffer from mental illness
4 in 5 Americans are affected by it

And then throughout you see more statistics on the screen:

87 million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness
There are over 350,000 diagnosed cases of PTSD resulting from the Iraq war
18 of our American heroes are committing suicide every day

And statements like these:
There is a fine line between madness & creativity
Mental illness is the only DIS-EASE which you can be diagnosed with, and get yelled at for having

Joe went public with his illness after he was hired to do a film. (FYI: one of the first things required for actors and directors before they start filming is to see a doctor and production schedules a physical for insurance purposes) He had done this over 70 times but in this case he told the doctor the two medications he was currently taking, one for depression and one for heart disease. His lawyers were then informed that the production company/studio could not insure Joe because he was taking an antidepressant. They were told Joe could sign a waiver basically saying if he had a ‘breakdown’ he would be financially responsible for the loss of work or a shutdown. Joe’s real problem and awakening was simple: they were willing to cover his heart but not his brain. That is stigma. We all know it and it’s something I’ve been fighting and living with for countless years. It’s heartbreaking.

However, in a separate (lengthy) taped discussion with Joe he discusses a number of topics, mostly stigma, his films, politics & mental illness. He also talks about the fact the he quit drinking and has started practicing yoga, he exercises, etc. He believes in the theory that mental illness is genetic. I believe he mentioned his mother was diagnosed bipolar. Now, I haven’t seen his documentary but when his teaser states 87 million Americans suffer from a mental illness-I doubt (and I hope I’m incorrect) that he mentions why we have this false statistic. This number has increased drastically simply due to Big Pharma’s influence and a bunch of doctors started diagnosing people for a variety of reasons: more money in their pockets, get the patient in and out as quickly as possible, falsified data and studies…the list goes on and on. Instead of dealing with the true issue at hand, whether it be trauma or dysfunction, it seems Joe has partially bought into the quick fix system. And he’s using his celebrity status with people in the government in hopes that his message will be heard. That would be all fine and good except there are many flaws in his message. I agree with ending stigma but ‘his message’ goes much, much deeper than that.

In chapter 15 of the discussion linked above someone asked him if he’s tried alternative treatments like acupuncture and he states that he does practice yoga and meditation, he partakes in talk therapy, 12 step groups, etc. He seems to be all over the map and that is fine. It is his path. But it will truly disturb me if he does not mention Big Pharma’s influence within our modern psychiatric world (doctors, NAMI, etc) in his documentary, No Kidding, Me Too!


Kevin Siers’ cartoon April 8, 2009

Filed under: mental illness,stigma — clementine @ 10:15 pm
Tags: , , ,

If this cartoon titled: Local Terrorist offends you, I encourage you to write a letter to the editor at the Charlotte Observer. According to his bio, Kevin’s cartoons are distributed to over 400 newspapers nationwide by King Features Syndicate.


Here are the email addresses:

Rick Thames, editor:

Letters to the editor:

Cartoonist Kevin Siers:

This was my letter to the editor and I cc’d Rick and Kevin:

I am writing in regards to Kevin Siers’ cartoon titled “Local Terrorist”

Horrific images like this one promote the stigma associated with mental illness. Just look at some of the comments regarding Kevin’s cartoon. I find this cartoon extremely offensive as someone who has lived with a mental illness for more than 25 years. I must ask if you, your readers or Mr. Siers has a family member or close friend that suffers from depression or another mental illness? I have news for you: mental illness is an illness just like any other and it can be successfully treated. I am living proof of that-although, no thanks to Big Pharma. Unfortunately, I have spent more than half of my life living with the stigma associated with mental illness, meanwhile I have family members who have diabetes or cystic fibrosis and there is no stigma because people are not ‘afraid’ of those illnesses. People continue to be afraid of anyone with a mental illness partially thanks to cartoons like this. It is disgusting and you should all be ashamed for printing such a thing. This is one giant step backwards for the millions of people who have long suffered and been misunderstood. Don’t be surprised if you lose readers over this and you should!

****UPDATE: I should note that I don’t necessarily believe in mental illness these days. Of course my entire life I wanted to believe I had an illness because at the time it was the only thing keeping me alive as others around me labeled me crazy, odd, insane, etc. You get the picture. Today, this is my belief, if there is such a thing as mental illness…where is the scientific proof? Where is the cure? Scientists have had plenty of time to prove this and yet they haven’t. That speaks volumes. Instead we have numerous drugs promoted on television, pimped by our doctors and pharma reps for a quick fix. And let’s face it-there’s a a lot of money in it for Big Pharma and doctors. I wrote this email to Kevin because he does feed the stigmatization of a group of human beings that have been discriminated against their entire lives. That is not something I can sit back and ignore.


lost and confused December 30, 2008

I just watched a video thanks to an entry at Beyond Meds.

*this video runs about 10 minutes and I hope you watch in its entirety-Dr. Breggin has some interesting things to say regarding children and psychiatric medications towards the end.

this video is powerful, informative and yet i feel… lost. confused. deceived. this video has triggered so many emotions. i don’t even know where to begin.

i’ll start with this. age 13. telling my parents i wanted to die over and over until….a trip to a psychiatrist’s office and i left with a diagnosis of depression. i have repeatedly discussed here my rape at 15 which i assumed only heightened my depression. it was so brutal, i blocked it from my memory for nearly 4 years. during my early 20s, i checked myself into a mental hospital because i wanted to feel normal. instead i was given dixie cups filled with medications and then kicked out because my insurance company would only pay for three or so days. at 30, five years ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar. and I have seen several psychiatrists since then that agreed with that diagnosis.

after watching this video, my mind…is spinning. you see, I have ALWAYS believed I have a mental illness. and now, i question that. is there such a thing as a chemical imbalance? i believed so and now i have doubts. i cannot describe to you what that feels like. there are millions of us with a ‘mental illness’ and all we’ve ever really wanted was to be understand and loved unconditionally. unfortunately our behaviors tend to push people away or scare them. they may very well be incapable of understanding, therefore, getting too close is impossible. that has usually been my experience with some family members and some friends. if there is not a name behind this, like, mental illness (even with its misunderstandings) i feel i will never be understood, only by those that are either open-minded or like me. again, my entire life i have wanted to be understood. my sister has a rare disease. it has a name and people understand, they comfort her, doctors care for her. what if mine does not have a name? what if it is much deeper than i ever imagined? my gut and my heart are both telling me right now (and I should probably listen) I don’t need a label, I just need to live my life. (more…)


you might be oblivious but sometimes you insult and hurt me December 28, 2008

Thanks to finding optimism for this:

There are many ways to insult someone with depression, without even trying very hard. The best way is to give them some unsolicited advice. Something that you think is simple, yet profound, and potentially life changing. But said in ignorance. Nothing cuts deeper to someone with depression, than when their illness, which is serious, is trivialized by another who doesn’t understand it.

Here are the some of the terrible things that people say:
“This is what life is like. Get used to it.”
“Life isn’t meant to be easy.”
“Just snap out of it!”
“Pull yourself together.”
“Who said that life is fair?”
“You just have to get on with things.”
“At least it’s not that bad.”
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
“You have so many things. What do you have to feel down about?”
“You just need to cheer up.”
“Quit trying to be a martyr.”
“Stop taking all those medicines.”
“I know how you feel. I’ve been depressed for whole days at a time.”
“You don’t like feeling that way? So change it!”


ordinary people December 23, 2008

Today I was reminded of one of my favorite films, Ordinary People. It won 4 Oscars back in 1980. Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Redford), Best Supporting Actor (Timothy Hutton) and Best Screenplay. And yet it’s one of those films many people have not seen. I used to wonder why. and today I understand. It’s simple really and I’m surprised I never thought of it before. I grew up surrounded by many who put on the Cleaver family front. It was safe. comfortable. And this film is anything but. This film is raw and painful. beautiful and sad. honest and real. If you are someone who chooses to live behind the Cleaver fence or normal facade…this is a movie that forces you to remove walls and think. feel. empathize. go to “unsafe” places.

First, watch the trailer: (more…)


Celexa insomnia continues December 20, 2008

wow. The Celexa is really messing with my sleep schedule. Prior to the medication this was my average schedule when not working: to bed between midnight-3am and i would wake between 9am-noon.

and now, for example, this will give you an idea of my sleep schedule.
Thursday night, well Friday morning, rather…I went to bed at 7am and woke up at 9:30am to help a friend shop for her son’s Christmas toys. at least it got me out of the house. ran a few errands. came home, cleaned and then napped from 5ish-8pm. Went to bed at 3:30am and woke up this morning or actually bolted out of bed at 6:30am. I can’t go back to sleep although, physically my body is craving it, my eyelids are very heavy right now, can hardly keep them open to see the page. Mentally, I can’t. and so I made a pot of coffee, called my grandmother and parents. now, I’m wondering if this medication is worth the trouble. I did not call my doctor because I see her in 9 days and figured I’d talk about it then but the lack of sleep is really getting to me.

This reminds me of something a psychiatrist once told me: it is crucial to get outside at least 5 days a week and walk for 30 minutes. Make sure you get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep, preferably on the same schedule and take a strong multi-vitamin everyday. (more…)


get kids off medicine December 19, 2008

Quickly, I would like to direct everyone to my new page (35 things: a continuous entry) at the top of my website, to the left of ‘about me’. I frequently update there with personal stories. It’s been very therapeutic.

my sincere thanks to Beyond Meds for this linking to this story. I think it’s a wonderful idea and hope to see more to follow.

Martin Irwin, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine, is launching what he believes is a first- of-its kind-program nationally to “Get Kids Off Medicine.”

The LSUHSC Get Kids Off Medicine Program, dedicated to tapering and discontinuing psychiatric medication for children being treated with three or more psychiatric medications, is being implemented three half days a week at the LSU Behavioral Science Center at 3450 Chestnut Street. The program accepts Medicaid and most insurance. Discounted and possible free care will be provided to those who qualify based on income.

“Along with the increase in prevalence of mental illness in children and youth, is a skyrocketing rate of use of psychiatric medication often as the sole treatment and most commonly to treat disruptive behaviors and aggression,” says Dr. Irwin, who specializes in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “It is not uncommon for children even as young as five to six years of age to be on multiple medications, as many as four to five at the same time.”

Dr. Irwin says the over-medicating of the problems of children in the mental health system is likely to result in misdiagnosis-labeling of behavioral problems that result from interpersonal difficulties, realistic feelings that are not excessive or out of proportion to the child’s real life experiences, or reactions to current life stresses as major psychiatric disorders leading to unnecessary medical treatment. Many of the medications used to treat children are either not approved by the FDA for use in this age group, or are not approved for the indication they are being prescribed.